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News digest – cancer’s sleeper cells, the ‘microbiome’, cheeseburgers and more

by Nick Peel | Analysis

8 March 2014

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  • New research from our scientists showed that an advanced imaging technique could be used to identify dormant cancer cells that may be resistant to therapy or prompt relapse after treatment. See The Information Daily and our press release for more details.
  • Our researchers also found that a simple blood test could be used to identify which children with a particularly aggressive form of neuroblastoma are unlikely to respond to treatment, pinpointing those who could benefit from experimental treatments earlier. MedicalXpress and HealthCanal have more info.
  • An Australian study showed that the country’s human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme is working and women who are fully vaccinated are less likely to develop cervical cancer. The Guardian has more.
  • This interesting blog post from the Institute of Cancer Research covered new research showing that the communities of bacteria that call our gut home – also known as the ‘microbiome’ – could be used to prevent gut problems following radiotherapy treatment.
  • And in more bacteria news, researchers showed that the composition of the microbiome can affect the development of bowel cancer in mice. The Scientist and News Medical covered it here.
  • The Telegraph focussed on research into hard-to-treat tumours. These so called “Cinderella cancers” – including brain, lung, pancreatic and oesophageal – have lagged behind others in survival rates, highlighting a need for more research to improve the chances of people beating these diseases.
  • The targeted cancer drug bevacizumab – also known as Avastin – will be available in England via the Cancer Drugs Fund to treat women with advanced cervical cancer. The Guardian and Mail Online have more details.
  • And The Telegraph covered research into more targeted treatments including promising results from an early phase clinical trial of a drug called brentuximab – also available via the Cancer Drugs Fund – to treat a rare form of Non Hodgkin lymphoma called anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).
  • Early stage US research showed that accumulation of a cholesterol breakdown product points towards more aggressive forms of prostate cancer in mice. MedicalXpress has more info.
  • A small-scale pilot study showed that an experimental ‘breath test’ could be used to identify women who need further screening for breast cancer. It’s very early days, and a lot more work is needed before this could be turned into a test to sit alongside mammography. The Mail Online has more.
  • Our Genes in Space smartphone game featured in The Guardian’s 20 best Android games for February 2014. You can read more about the game and find links to download and play in this blog post.

And finally

  • Alarming headlines about meat and cheese being ‘as deadly as smoking’ gave an over the top twist to research linking high levels of protein intake and the risk of dying from cancer. The study is too small to make these conclusions and, as we highlight in this blog post on the research, tobacco remains the single biggest cause of preventable disease and early death in the UK. The New Scientist is right, “you can has cheezburger”, but enjoy these treats in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet.